The Arundel girls’ basketball team wrapped up its Anne Arundel County schedule last Wednesday with a 59-48 loss to No. 16 South River. For most teams in the county, that would mark the end of the regular season. For the Wildcats, there was still one game left before the playoffs.
That final regular season contest came Thursday when the Wildcats played host to sixth-ranked Riverdale Baptist, a game the Crusaders won easily, 88-29. The two teams have played in the final week of Arundel’s regular season every year since 2008, the result of a friendship between Wildcats Coach Lee Rogers and former Riverdale Baptist Coach Diane Richardson, who left the school last season to become an assistant coach at George Washington University.
Other than the county championship, Arundel’s game against Riverdale Baptist last week was the only girls basketball game in the county. The strategy behind scheduling such a tough out-of-county opponent so late in the season is two-fold, Rogers said. First, it ensures that the Wildcats won’t sit idle for a week if they fail to reach the county championship game. Second, even a lopsided game serves as a valuable measuring stick and teaching tool for his team.
“A lot of people are afraid to play them, and we’re not afraid,” Rogers said. “We have excellent kids but we don’t think they understand how hard they should play, because I think Riverdale Baptist plays very hard all the time, and that’s what we want out kids to do too.”
Last week’s season finale could prove costly though for the Wildcats. Against the more physical Crusaders, Arundel lost both of its frontcourt starters to injury. Freshman forward Kennedi Colcolugh, the Wildcats’ second leading scorer this season, went down with a sprained ankle while senior center Kierra McKellery suffered a sprained knee. Rogers said Sunday he was unsure if either would be available for Arundel’s 4A East region quarterfinal Monday night against Leonardtown.
Part of the issue, Rogers said, was the manner in which his team’s game against the Crusaders was officiated. The coach, who also serves as Arundel’s athletic director, said the injuries to Colcolugh and McKellery were a direct result of how physical Riverdale Baptist was allowed to play.
“They’re aggressive and physical, and my team is not,” Rogers said. “If it was two Anne Arundel County teams playing, it’s not that way. They call the game different for whatever reason. They did stuff to us that we’re not allowed to do against our county opponents.”
Earlier this month after a home loss to then-No. 3 Spalding, Riverdale Coach Sam Caldwell complained that officials had called the game too tightly. Four Crusaders fouled out in Spalding’s 70-57 double-overtime win and the Cavaliers attempted 39 free throws to Riverdale’s 19.